“FROM TENNIS TO ALPACA IN ONE SMOOTH SEGUE”
It’s been a peaceful few days of enjoying the ordinary like coffee with the neighbours, watching the birds at the feeder and the sweet peas flowering on the vine. I can relax in the knowledge that the girls will be here from Ireland next week and life will take on a different pace. In between I have a routine overnight stay at Lamlash Hospital and I’m hoping that it is all routine with no helicopter trips anywhere.
I’ve been watching the tennis, following young Andy up through the rounds and remembering how I used to love to play. It’s like watching a well choreographed ballet as the players bring out their best. Wimbledon by tradition is so civilised and rules are us. We are fortunate as a country that we can afford to put on such a demonstration of expertise and the players are well paid for their efforts.
By contrast Kate Humble is presenting a programme on BBC called “Wild Shepherdess”. The first programme was about a tribe of Afghanistani people who live in the high Himalayas beyond the reach of war and absolutely rely on their sheep to provide them with milk and fibre, They are much more concerned in keeping wolves away from the sheep than being involved in the war but their lives are at survival level nevertheless.
Of most interest to me was last night’s programme which was about Peru. (No family favouritism here!). Kate visited alpaca herders in the high Andes at Chaullacocha and the Mitchell Company processing plant in Arequipa. The herders lived in extreme poverty but provided a warm welcome to her and the crew as they learned about breeding and quality of fibre.
This reminded me so much of the early days on Arran when we sorted fleece and produced handspun yarns for a very small niche market, no competition for the larger factory producers. We tried to set up a co-operative, but although there was romantic interest in our work as part of the summer tourist industry, really our “competitors” were villages in Africa and other parts of Europe where attempts were being made to reintroduce traditional skills and teach them to the younger generation.It didn’t work here and obviously herding alpacas is on a “knife edge” in Peru.
I found it very sad that the mountain people were being forced to think about the inevitability of a move to the city where they might earn more money, but the work would be menial and they would end up living in shanty towns with all the implications of leaving the fresh mountain air and traditional skills behind.
Let’s hope that such programmes have the result of bringing together the local herders to work with the processing and research industry to improve their product and reintroduce the exquisitely fine work that was typical of their ancestors.
Most of all let’s hope that the value of a tennis player and the value of a traditional craftsperson producing in traditional style can be brought in line so that each one afford to live the life they choose.
Kate Humble is on BBC1 on Fridays at 9 PM and also on iPlayer. Hopefully Andy Murray will be on BBC through the championship match.
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